Parents can have children tested for lead

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two massive toy recalls in the past few weeks have unnerved parents scrambling to get the bad products out of toy boxes and back to the manufacturer. And, it is causing many parents to head to local clinics for lead testing.

Toy maker Mattel recalled 9 million Chinese-made toys, including Polly Pocket play sets and Batman action figures, because of dangers to children from lead paint or tiny magnets that could be swallowed.

A few weeks earlier, the company recalled 1.5 million Fisher Price infant toys because of similar concerns. And, Mattel says more recalls are likely.

"If you are worried about your child, have a lead screen done. It is just a finger prick and not painful," says Ruth Ralph, administrator of Johnson Nichols Healthcare Clinic in Greencastle.

The clinic, which routinely tests nine-month-old babies for iron and lead, has seen a slight increase in the number of requests for tests.

"So many of our babies have already been tested for lead," Ralph told the BannerGraphic. "All of our Women Infants and Children Program (WIC) babies are tested at nine months. We don't have very many positives, but when we do we look for the source.

"Once we remove the source of contamination we recheck the child to make sure the levels are going down. The source is usually something in an older home like paint from the window sill," she added.

Last year the clinic did 359 lead tests with the majority being for children age zero to nine years. And, they did 36 retests in 2006.

"It will be interesting to see what then numbers will be this year," commented Ralph. Children who ingest lead-laced paint can suffer brain damage, and improper disposal of lead-based paint can damage the environment. Those most are at risk are children up to the age of six years.

The Putnam County Board of Health is also doing lead testing on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5-8 p.m. They have three appointments scheduled so far this week. They will have three nurses available on Tuesday and Thursday to perform tests and ask that persons interested in having their child tested call 653-5210 for an appointment.

Results are taking longer than the usual two to three week due to the number of tests being processed in the state.

With more than three billion toys sold annually in the United States, about 80 percent of U.S. toys are made or include parts made in China. Many retailers, such as Wal-Mart Stores, are offering the option of returning the recalled toys to stores where they are sent back to the makers, but they prefer shoppers send them back to manufacturers in packaging that the maker provides in exchange for a refund.

Recalled toys include 7.3 million Polly Pocket play sets, about 253,000 "Sarge" die-cast toy cars, about 683,000 Barbie and Tanner play sets, about 340,000 Batman and One Piece magnetic action figure sets, and about a million Doggie Day Care play sets.

Environmentalist are concerned that some of the toys may end up in the trash and eventually in landfills, where they could possibly leach toxins into the groundwater. Manufacturers are recommending consumers send all the products back to them for proper disposal.

For details on the Mattel toy recall -- including pictures and model numbers for the recalled toys -- visit Mattel's consumer relations web site at

More information is also available by phone. Call the Consumer Product Safety Commission's recall hotline at (800) 638-2772 or Mattel's recall hotline at (800) 916-4997.

To set an appointment for lead testing call the Putnam County Board of Health at 653-5210 or Johnson Nichols Healthcare Clinic at 653-6171.

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